BRIGHAM CITY — Residents who spoke at a city council meeting Thursday illustrated the great “wedge” in the small city over the mayor’s admission that he had engaged in an extramarital affair.
And it was that divide that worried many speakers, among them resident Michael Allen, who said “a wedge” had been created between those who supported Mayor Dennis Fife and those who sought his resignation.
“And the only way is to stand up and resign,” he told the council.
“There are a lot of people who say we need to forgive and forget,” added Flora Reiter, “but as long as he’s mayor, we will not forget.”
Among the crowd that spilled out the door of the city council chamber, some residents stood to support Fife, who remained determined to stay at his job; they applauded his talents as well as his willing confession.
Other residents called for his resignation, citing his example to children and concern for the city’s reputation.
Fife released a statement Monday that said he is seven months into a “repentance process” following an extramarital affair. He asked for residents’ forgiveness, confessing that following his release as a bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had begun a relationship with a former ward member he had counseled.
“I have confided the details of my transgressions to my family and my church leaders,” he said in his statement. “They are assisting me in the repentance process. I have asked their forgiveness and understanding and I’m grateful it has been extended. We are working through these issues together.”
“We all make mistakes” was the refrain spoken by several who spoke to the council.
“Who among us is without sin?” asked an emotional Ben Lloyd. “Who among us would be willing to cast the first stone?”
Lloyd, a former Thiokol vice president and former bishop, said he had worked for many years with Fife, himself a retired ATK chemist.
“He wanted to make it right, and he still does,” said Lloyd. “He didn’t try to explain it away or make excuses. He just wanted to make it better.”
Private mistakes should stay private, Lloyd said, adding that the mayor’s private acts have not affected his public decisions.
“This is a talented, honest man with great capabilities, and it breaks my heart that he made a mistake in his personal life. But we shouldn’t throw him under the bus.”
However, it was the potential effect on Fife’s ability to make effective decisions that bothered other residents.
Becky Maddox said she was concerned the mayor’s “judgment is fairly impaired and he is susceptible to blackmail.” She added, “He can’t be serving in a position of political power.”
Resident Chris Powers also asked for Fife’s resignation.
“I think the city, for the rest of his term, will be divided and not able to move in the direction we need,” she said.
Perhaps the most emotion-laden statement came from Ron Aldridge, whose son, a former Brigham City police officer, has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging he was fired for the same behavior Fife had engaged in.
Ronnie Aldridge, a police veteran of 11 years, was terminated last January after engaging in a relationship with a fellow police officer, the suit says.
“You are a disgrace, sir,” the elder Aldridge told the mayor. “And your chief of police is too.”
Aldridge noted that while his son was exonerated, the mayor has not been.
Those who spoke in support of Fife included Jeff Packer, who said that if Brigham City residents judge Fife harshly, “then it sets a high standard for all of us, because we all live in glass houses.”
Although Fife’s actions are a “high violation” of his religious beliefs, added Packer, “I believe that repentance is possible, and that means forgiveness.”